Know, Then Claim Your Rights

<br>Julia Guenther

July 25, 2011, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.: 05 No.-3 July 22-2011 (Shrawan 06,2068)<BR>

Leaders of teachers’ trade unions from India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka had been invited to visit Kathmandu from July 2-4, 2011 for a three-day workshop to further their leadership skills and to learn about best practices of other countries.

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Nepal (FES Nepal) and Education International (EI) collaborated in the framework of the Trade Union Rights Network South Asia to support teachers’ trade unions of SAARC countries on the enforcement of their rights in order to promote gender equality and social justice. Some 35 trade union representatives, with 10 male members, participated in the workshop. The workshop aimed at gaining essential insights for a strong performance in collective bargaining, claiming further rights and enabling leaders to take an active part in the national and international gender-debate. Furthermore, the workshop aimed to prepare an internal guideline on the implementation of gender equality within the trade union itself. The workshop trainers Shashi Bala Singh and Rey Dichoso Dolot were programme coordinators with profound knowlegde about UN instruments, complaint procedures and ILO supervisory mechanisms with focus on ILO core conventions, UN Commission on Status of Women and on CEDAW. The knowledge about rights and methodology leads to the increase of the leader’s self-confidence. The Asia-Pacific Sub-Region of EI had prepared the workshop concept including lecture presentations, group work and plenary sessions, enriched by presentations on MDGs, CEDAW and Migration & Human Rights held by Nepali Experts-Keshav Bhattarai, Babita Basnet and Saktida Singh. This mixture created a lively and result-oriented atmosphere.

The rights of trade unions in South Asia—human rights—are frequently violated by the governments, employers and armed groups. Profound knowledge was provided on ILO Core Conventions as well as on C183 Maternity Protection Benefits. One group work session outlined the status of ratification and legislations of each country with the result that core conventions mostly had been ratified, however, the implementation hit a snag. The workshop provided the know-how on forcing the implementation of ratified conventions. First of all, trade unionists should prefer social dialogue on equal level with the government. If the government refuses to recognize the trade unions’ demands, action should be raised to increase the public pressure on the government (name & shame). If the government still shows resistance, trade unionists will have to take up legal steps in order to force the government to implement the conventions it once had ratified.

These hard facts were embraced by superordinate principles. The principle of solidarity was mentioned, especially networking via internet as this platform is out of the government’s reach. The principle of mainstreaming was outlined in three dimensions: 1) Women and men must not work in isolation; parallel tracks will even increase the gender gap. Activities of women and men must be channelled as one mainstream. 2) In terms of state budgeting, trade unions will have to bring gender issues into the mainstream of issues on the agenda in order to raise the budget. So far, there has been reserved little budget for gender issues only. 3) Trade union leaders will have to train and bind young union members to form a future leadership committed to a mainstreamed mission in long-term perspective. Using this knowledge, the participants worked on an action plan specific to their countries which will be set up more precisely and implemented in near future. EI will provide full support during this process, however, EI will have a look on the trade unions’ eager activism on this also.

With the workshop coming to an end, the participants agreed on the broad extension of their knowlegde resulting from the thematic and methodological richness of the workshop. It gave chance to start building up a network among participants. A multilingual manual on the ILO Core Conventions will be prepared in collaboration. Exercising equality as an intrinsic component of human rights, acting as a role model for their members and their students, inducing changes by sharing their knowledge—that is what all participants will work on in future. Dev Raj Dahal, Head of Nepal FES concluded that success of trade unions lies on solidarity and collective action.

(Author is is from Munich University of Applied Sciences, Germany)

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